Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmbury Review

Spellbreaker is the first book book in a brand new two book series written by bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg. This series will be set in an alternate Victorian-era England where magic is common, and where those who can wield it are the powerful and wealthy elite.

The books heroine, Elsie Camden, is a lowly orphan who also happens to be an unregistered spellbreaker and member of the clandestine group, The Cowls, who undertake missions to protect the common people from the abuse of the magical elite.

During one of these, for lack of a better word, goodwill assignments, her spellbreaking abilities are discovered by another wizard, Bacchus Kelsey, and she must make a deal with him if she wants to escape prison.

As Elsie struggles under her various allegiances she becomes enraged and her true loyalties are tested like never before.

This is not your typical fantasy novel. It takes place in a small area of the overarching world and has a small cast of characters. This is a book about relationships more than anything else. There’s no high stakes end of the world stuff here, this is good old fashioned character development at the front and centre.

There’s not much to be found here though for fantasy readers who love a darker and gritter look at the magical worlds. There’s little challenging or unpredictable here, its quite simple and straightforward if truth be told.

Yet there are likeable characters that are well written and fleshed out to the point that I can recall their mannerisms and quirks long after I finished reading.

Elsie for instance is a charming and loveable heroine who takes on the Robin Hood mantle for this novel. She strikes back at the haughty elite in defence of the downtrodden.

She is overly naïve at points, and we as a reader are way ahead her for most of the story, which is frustrating to read, and we spend more time shouting at her to hurry up to her inevitable realisation, than we do enjoying the story.

The plot is convenient and simple, it never surprises or astounds you. Elsie is a simple but charming character who never does anything out of the ordinary, she is also predictable and boring. She is however, loveable, and willing to sacrifice everything for those around her, making her one of the most likeable protagonists I’ve met for a while.

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But Elsie is not the only protagonist of this novel. Bacchus is a secondary hero who has his own point-of-view chapters. These chapters are great at launching his character and fleshing out his desires and objectives.

Bacchus is a wizard on the verge of attaining his mastery but he has sympathise for Elsie and her motives thanks to his own backstories. Bacchus struggles to fit into the English magical elite thanks to his lowdown status, giving him an innate connection with Elsie.

The romance between Elsie and Bacchus feels quite forced if I’m honest, its nice and the payoff is good but it doesn’t feel at all natural. There’s no chemistry between the two and the beginning of their relationship is filled with blackmail, distrust and resentment. There is little in the way of authentic evolution here to ever see them as genuine lovers.

Their relationship may feel satisfying on the face of it but when you think about it it’s a little shallow and disappointing.

The plot of the novel is simple and straightforward but it’s still satisfying to read and enjoy. The villain is easy to determine but the journey of our heroes to their realisation is satisfying regardless.

There are a number of plot threads left hanging for us to keep us intrigued for the next book, a book I myself will be looking out for, but one I don’t expect much from.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Spellbreaker is available from Amazon.

The Amulet of Samarkand Review

The Amulet of Samarkand is a very unique novel, and one that bridges the gap between children’s and young adult fiction with great success.

This is the story of an ambitious but young magician and an ancient exasperated demon bound to do this childs bidding. For children this is a nice challenging read, and for adults it’s a witty, fast paced adventure tale with plenty of humour to keep you coming back for more.

As with all young apprentice magicians our young hero Nathaniel has no parents, they sold him to the government to give him s chance at power, after all in this world only magicians can run the country.

Nathaniel grows up without much love, only his masters wife shows him any sort of affection, and Nathaniel returns this with loyalty and love of his own, yet she must still stand by and watch as her husband bullies and berates Nathaniel at every turn.

While you would rightly expect the reader to feel sympathy for this lonely and downtrodden young boy you would also be wrong, hes not a particularly sympathetic character. He is naturally gifted and has an aptitude for magic far beyond that of his master, which leads him to study advanced magic without supervision and for wildly immoral, though understandable reasons. He is an egotistical jackass most of the time.

But forget about Nathaniel for a moment and let me introduce you to the books standout character, Bartimaeus. This ancient demon is a proud creature with a Nobel reputation. You can imagine his displeasure then at being summoned by an overly ambitious twelve year old and being ordered to undertake a dangerous mission. A mission that will open up a world of conspiracy and place both our heroes on a path to save the world.

The book is split into two halves, one half is a traditional story that follows a normal patter, while the second gives us Bartimaeus’ inner thoughts in the form of footnotes. And his inner thoughts are brilliantly witty and cynical, they are the standout moments within what is already a very good book.

The Amulet of Samarkand is highly recommended for both children and adults.

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra Review

James Clyde did not have the greatest start in life, as an infant he was deposited at a children’s home by his wounded, blood-soaked grandfather. As a result, he grows up under a cloud of mystery.

His grandfather remains in his life and James always visits him over the Christmas holidays, he is a rather unusual man it has to be said. It is on one such visit, when James is just eleven, that his grandfather is murdered by an evil, black clad figure who stands at the head of an army.

Finding his grandfather on his deathbed James is handed a large diamond and is instructed to keep it safe. Told that the diamond will grant him one wish Clyde uses it to escape the hunting army. James finds himself running for his life as the black clad figure and his bloodthirsty army hunt him down.

James finds himself whisked away to Orchestra, a strange land which is on the verge of being conquered by the evil Queen of a land called Darken. It turns out, in pretty predictable fashion, that James is the missing King of Orchestra and that he is the promised prophet who will one day return and lead Orchestra to safety.

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is predominantly a children’s/Young Adults book, but it does have enough surprising twists and turns to hold anyone’s attention for the length of the novel. I found myself picking this book up any spare moment I had. It would be whipped out on the bus, over breakfast and even at the dinner table. But it was a great read and each little twist and turn was so well placed that it just made me keep reading on to find out what the truth actually was.

There is a little violence to be found in these pages, the murder of James’ grandfather being the pinnacle of it, yet most of the violence is left off the page so worried parents have no need to worry about doing their child any sort of psychological harm.

This book is beautifully well crafted with an intricate backstory and some fantastic and well paced narration which will hold a child or teenagers attention long enough to constitute as reading.

Some children nowadays do not enjoy reading as much as they should. TV and games come first for too many children. But with books like this out there they have no excuse not to pick up a book and read. This is a great story with a compelling lead character and a well envisioned world within which to escape.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra you can grab a paperback copy on Amazon.